As we near the end of February – months since my last entry (I note with chagrin…) – we are waiting impatiently to receive our official authorization to open as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School next fall. This is without doubt the biggest initiative in my three years of headship, and we have worked hard to establish this status. What will it mean to Stoneleigh-Burnham when all is said and done? A lot, including:
1) SBS will be the first girls’ school in New England to go IB. We will be the third private school in New England and the third girls’ school in the country to incorporate this program.
2) As a small school, we afford ourselves connection to a worldwide network of other schools and educators with whom we may share ideas about curriculum and experience with the IB Organization.
3) We will allow any motivated student to shoot for the IB diploma, not just those who have been highly successful beforehand. [This is a particular favorite of mine. Young people come into their own as students at various times in their development, and it is gratifying to offer an inclusive opportunity for those who are just picking up steam halfway through high school.]
4) Our teachers will share a common professional development experience, having been trained to teach in the IB Diploma Program. To date, all those who will teach an IB course next year have been trained; our goal is to train everyone in the school so we are all conversant in its philosophy and goals.
5) Our students will be exposed to a solid, multicultural curriculum that has room for differentiated challenges. What we have understood from IB students interviewed at other schools is that they would never change their choice to challenge themselves to complete the requirements for the IB Diploma. According to them, it is meaningful work that is worth pursuing.
6) Our students will feel proud of the level of commitment they make and rigorous challenges they work to meet. The Diploma Program offers a much more integrated, and therefore potentially more meaningful, way for students to understand the world than the AP Program.
7) Our Senior Project Program will be enhanced by the IB Extended Essay; our Community Service Program will develop more depth by virtue of the IB CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) requirement.
8) We are continuing our own commitment to internationalism and multiculturalism, creating a clearer vision for the future and securing this perspective in all disciplines.
9) We will establish a smoother segue from our Middle School to our Upper School as our program for older students necessarily becomes more student-centered (like our Middle School already is).
10) While not all students will strive to complete the diploma requirements, all students will be necessarily affected by the IB as a part of SBS. We will be changing the way we teach, asking students to write more, think more critically, and process their learning along the way.
– Sally Mixsell, Head of School